Dr. Abraham Patani of Mumbai & Anr. VERSUS The State of Maharashtra & Ors

Dr. Abraham Patani of Mumbai & Anr. VERSUS The State of Maharashtra & Ors

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.5929 OF 2022
 [    ARISING OUT OF SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO.13754 OF 2022]
Dr. Abraham Patani of Mumbai & Anr. ..... Appellants
                                       
VERSUS
The State of Maharashtra & Ors. ..... Respondents
JUDGMENT
Surya Kant, J:
1. Leave Granted.
2. This appeal arises from the judgment dated 30.05.2022 passed
by the Bombay High Court dismissing the Appellants’ Writ Petition in
which they had sought to quash a series of resolutions passed by
Respondent   No.   2,   as   well   as   notifications   and   a   final   award   of
compensation under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (“LAA”) issued by
Page 1 of 57
Respondent Nos. 10 & 11, which cumulatively resulted in acquisition
of parts of the Appellants’ property for construction of a new road. 
A. FACTS
3. The genesis and course of the present dispute spans several
decades and includes one prior round of litigation before this Court.
The crux of the matter arises from the opposition by Appellants to the
construction of a road through their property by Respondent No. 2,
the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. The property in question was
acquired by the Appellants in 1959, and a building known as the
“INGA Building” was constructed on it in 1965. 
4. The possibility of having a road through the Appellants’ land was
floated initially in a Development Plan (“DP”) of 1976. After this, the
road was realigned in 1984 in order to secure smooth passage through
Appellants’ land. Appellants raised objections in this regard in 1992
and the planned road was deleted from the DP via notification dated
12.11.1992 issued by Respondent No. 1. 
5. During this period, various complaints were allegedly received
from residents in surrounding areas regarding the need for a road in
order   to   connect   the   Mahakali   Caves   with   the   Central   Industrial
District. Respondent No. 1 issued a directive under Section 37(1) of
the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, 1966 (“MRTP Act”) on
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07.06.1993, acknowledging the need for a connecting road but stating
that it was “not feasible” to pursue construction of an 18.30 metre
road   through   the   Appellants’   land.   Thus,   Respondent   No.   2   was
instructed to analyse the legal and technical aspects of the project
before   submitting   a   proposal   for   setting   up   the   road   with   minor
modifications in the DP under Section 37 of the MRTP Act.
6. Meanwhile, Appellants completed construction of a bungalow on
their land in 1994. However, subsequent sanctions sought by the
Appellants   for   further   buildings   were   rejected   by   the   Municipal
Corporation on the ground that a proposal for creation of a link road
through the property was under consideration. 
7. Respondent   No.   2   eventually   passed   Resolution   No.   651   on
10.09.1996   that   renewed   the   proposal   to   have   the   link   road
constructed through Appellants’ land. Two further resolutions were
then   passed:   a)   Resolution   No.   39   dated   18.08.1998   by   the
Improvement Committee affirming the proposal for the link road; b)
Resolution No. 536 on 08.12.1998 by Respondent No. 2 under Sec.
126 of the MRTP Act and Secs. 90(1) & (3) of the Mumbai Municipal
Corporation Act (“MMC Act”) for the acquisition of land in order to
build the new road line. 
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8. The Office of the Chief Engineer (Development Plan) forwarded
an application to Respondent No. 1 on 05.02.1999 seeking to initiate
proceedings under the LAA. Appellants filed protestations before the
state authorities claiming that the dimensions and route for the link
road would touch the buildings that had been constructed by them.
Given these continuing disputes, Respondent No. 2 eventually passed
Resolution No. 1167 on 09.03.2001 which noted that there were three
other road lines that connected the Mahakali Caves with the Central
MIDC.   Consequently,   it   was   concluded   that   an   additional   road
through Appellants’ property was redundant. 
9. Private Respondents, Nos. 6­9, challenged this decision before
the HC in WP No. 1072 of 2001. While this was pending, Respondent
No. 2 proposed to reconsider Resolution No. 1167. Appellants filed a
Notice   of   Motion   in   the   already   pending   WP,   seeking   to   restrain
Respondent No. 2 from once again tabling the motion to have a link
road through their land. This Notice was dismissed by the High Court
on 18.10.2002 with liberty granted to Respondent No. 2 to reconsider
the decision made on 09.03.2001 but with a caveat that any fresh
resolution   passed   thereafter   would   only   be   given   effect   to   after
obtaining leave from the Court. 
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10. Respondent No. 2 proceeded to pass Resolution No. 1117 on
28.10.2002   which   withdrew   Resolution   No.   1167,   and   partially
modified the earlier resolution passed on 08.12.1998. The net result of
this was that the acquisition of Appellants’ land was sanctioned for
building an 18.30 metre new road line. Appellants moved Writ Petition
No. 3060 of 2002 challenging the renewal of the plan to construct the
link road  and seeking to  quash three Resolutions: a)  No. 651  on
10.09.1996; b) No. 536 on 08.12.1998; c) No. 1117 on 28.10.2002. 
11. Meanwhile, the High Court disposed of WP No. 1072 of 2001
with the observation that after the passage of Resolution No. 1117, the
WP in question had become infructuous and the validity and legality of
the Resolution would be decided by the High Court in the proceedings
initiated by Appellants. 
12. During pendency of the Appellants’ WP, and pursuant to the
application of 05.02.1999, the acquisition exercise under the LAA was
put in motion. Respondent No. 10 and 11 issued notifications under
Sections 4 and 6 of the LAA directing that Appellants’ land be acquired
in public interest. The award of compensation under Section 11 was
declared   on   26.11.2007.   Appellants   consequently   incorporated   a
challenge   to   the   notification   under   Sec.   6   and   the   award   of
compensation, into their prayer in the pending Writ Petition. 
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13. Appellants’ interim prayer for status quo vis­à­vis the property
was rejected by the High Court and, being aggrieved by this denial,
they instituted SLP (Civil) No. 22849 of 2008 in which the Supreme
Court ordered that status quo be maintained as on 22.09.2008. The
SLP remained pending for over a decade until it was disposed of vide
order dated 05.12.2019 with a request to the High Court to finally
decide the matter. The order of status quo was extended till the final
judgment by the High Court. 
14. Before the High Court, the Appellants assailed the entire land
acquisition process on broadly three grounds: a) The MRTP Act formed
a complete code for the purpose of town planning and development,
and hence, Respondent No. 2 could not resort to the provisions of the
MMC Act to circumvent a DP that is approved under the MRTP Act.
Instead, it was mandatory to seek permission from Respondent No. 1
for effectuating minor modifications in the DP under Section 37 of the
MRTP Act; b) In arguendo, the procedure under the MMC Act for land
acquisition had not been followed. Section 91 of the MMC Act required
Respondent   No.   3   to   initiate   the   process   of   acquiring   land   under
Section 296 for laying down a new road under Section 291. However,
in this case, the Office of the Chief Engineer had been the authority
which took the first step which was an incurable defect. Additionally,
no authorization had been granted by Respondent No. 1, as required
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under Section 91 of the MMC Act; c) Appellants had not been given
sufficient   opportunity   to   voice   their   grievances   in   respect   of
Respondent No. 2’s plan to build the link road through their land. 
15. The Appellants’ Writ Petition was eventually dismissed vide the
impugned judgment whereby the High Court declined to quash the
various resolutions passed by Respondent No. 2, and the notification
and award of compensation under the LAA. Thus, the High Court
affirmed the need to acquire Appellants’ land for construction of the
link road in public interest. 
16. The Division Bench held: ­
i) The acquisition of Appellants’ land and decision to lay a new
road through it was taken pursuant to Sections 91, 291(a)
and   296,   of   the   MMC   Act.   The   MMC   Act   conferred
Respondent No. 2 with the power to acquire land and build a
new road which required neither prior permission from the
State Govt., nor for the road itself to be reflected in the DP;
ii) The MMC Act and MRTP Act are distinct, and the powers
granted to Respondent No. 2 under the former would not be
impliedly repealed by the latter merely because it was a
subsequent statute. Rather, they would exist side­by­side
and supplement each other in the areas where there was an
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overlap of powers. Thus, Respondent No. 2 had the option of
either going through the MRTP Act or the MMC Act and it
had used its discretion to exercise the latter option;
iii) While it was true that the link road was not included in the
DP   after   its   deletion   in   1992,   this   did   not   prevent
Respondent   No.   2   from  acting  under  the   MMC  Act.   The
MRTP Act dealt with crafting of development plans at the
macro   level,   while   Respondent   No.   2   was   at   liberty   to
exercise its powers under the MMC Act to iron out minute
details and carry out work that would be in furtherance of
such a plan, such as the construction of a link road;
iv) Sec. 37 of the MRTP Act which laid out a rigorous process
for   making   minor   adjustments   to   a   DP   would   not   be
relevant, as Respondent No. 2 had acted under the MMC Act
and not the MRTP Act to facilitate the acquisition of land
and setting up of the road;
v) The requirements under Section 91 of the MMC Act had
been complied with. Even though the Office of the Chief
Engineer rather than Respondent No. 3 had forwarded the
letter   to   Respondent   No.   10   seeking   to   initiate   the   land
acquisition proceedings, this was only a minor defect that
would not invalidate the process; 
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vi) Respondent   No.   1   had   acceded   to   the   steps   taken   by
Respondent Nos. 2 & 3 to acquire the Appellants’ land by
initiating the land acquisition proceedings under the LAA
through Respondent Nos. 10 & 11, which showed that it was
in agreement with the need for obtaining the property for the
link road; 
vii) There was a clear and urgent need for building the road to
alleviate traffic congestion in the area caused by the lack of
a connector from the Mahakali Caves to the Central MIDC.
Thus,   public   interest   would   have   to   trump   the   private
interests of Appellants. 
It is in this context that Appellants have approached this Court for the
second time. 
B. SUBMISSIONS
17. Mr. Shyam Divan & Mr. V. Giri, learned Senior Counsels for the
Appellants, have raised the following contentions while assailing the
impugned judgment: ­
i) The DP under the MRTP Act holds a position of primacy. It
is   not   possible   for   Respondent   No.   2   to   act   on   its   own
initiative in proposing construction of a road when the road
itself   is   not   reflected   in   the   DP.   Respondent   No.   1   had
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already made its opinion on the matter clear by deleting the
road   from   the   overall   DP   through   a   notification   on
12.11.1992, and had then suggested that Respondent No. 2
re­examine the issue in its Directive under Section 37 of the
MRTP Act, dated 07.06.1993;
ii) Section 31 of the MRTP Act provides the entire process by
which a DP is finalized and sanctioned. The overall scheme
under Section 31 envisages a consultative process with the
general   public   whereby   objections   and   suggestions   are
invited and considered. Respondent No. 2 has taken away
the right accorded under Section 31 to object to aspects of
the plan by circumventing it by way of a resolution under
the MMC Act; 
iii) The High Court’s ruling permits a subordinate authority, the
Municipal Corporation, to subvert the State Government’s
DP. This would cause violence to the mandate of the MRTP
Act; 
iv) Given the hierarchy established between the MRTP Act and
the MMC Act, Respondent No. 2’s usage of provisions of the
latter to do what cannot be done under the former, is merely
a colourable exercise of power;
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v) The MRTP Act is a complete code that provides for every
aspect of formulating, modifying, and finalizing a DP. Any
actions   taken   under   either  the   MCC  Act   or  the   LAA,   to
acquire land and use it for any purpose that is not expressly
sanctioned   in   the   DP,   are   illegal.   Reliance   is   placed   on
Girnar Traders v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (“Girnar
Traders   2011”)1 and  Manohar   Joshi   v.   State   of
Maharashtra & Ors.2
vi) Permitting a Municipal Corporation to act outside of a DP
will create a chaotic situation and facilitate unbridled usage
of   the   powers   under   the   relevant   municipal   corporation
statute. Such discretion cannot be accorded to a municipal
corporation to act outside the contours of the relevant DP;
vii) Even under the MMC Act, the requirement of Respondent
No. 3 initiating the process under Section 91 has not been
fulfilled. The minimum safeguard provided under Section 91
is for the municipal commissioner himself/herself to at least
apply   his/her   mind   to   the   proposal   and   then   make   an
application to the State Govt. under Section 91. These are
not minor defects but basic protections under the MMC Act
1 (2011) 3 SCC 1.
2 (2012) 3 SCC 619.
Page 11 of 61
and must be construed strictly. The judgment in  Girnar
Traders   v.   State   of   Maharashtra   (“Girnar   Traders
2007”)3
 is cited in this regard;
viii) Notwithstanding the aforementioned defect, Section 91 of
the MMC Act requires the State Govt., upon receipt of an
application   for   the   acquisition   of   land,   to   authorize   the
initiation   of   proceedings   under   the   LAA.   No   such
authorization has been granted in this case and the DP does
not provide for the road in any case. 
ix) Resolution No. 1167 had explicitly noted that the proposed
road  seemed  to be for the  benefit of  private individuals,
Respondent Nos. 4­9, and was not for any discernible public
interest. 
18. Arguing in support of the impugned judgment, learned Counsel
Mr. Girish Godbole, appearing for Respondent Nos. 2 & 3, learned
Senior Counsel, Mr. Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Respondent Nos.
6­9, alongside learned Counsel Mr. S.C. Dharmadhikari, appearing for
Respondent Nos. 4 & 5, have placed the following submissions:
i) Sanction for construction of the link road was obtained via
three resolutions: i) No. 651 on 10.09.1996; ii) Resolution
3 (2007) 7 SCC 555.
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No. 39 by the Improvement Committee on 18.08.1998; iii)
Resolution No. 536 of 08.12.1998 which was a composite
resolution under Section 126 of the MRTP Act, and Section
90(1) & (3) of the MMC Act. Mr. Godbole clarifies that the
third resolution was, in effect, under Section 91 of the MMC
Act and the mention of Section 90 is merely a typographical
error;
ii) In terms of authorization required from Respondent No. 1
for carrying out the acquisition process, Sections 4 & 6 of
the   LAA   provide   that   the   State   Govt.   is   the   party   that
initiates   the   process   of   issuing   a   notification   and   then
declaring   that   a   parcel   of   land   is   needed   for   a   public
purpose. Hence, the steps taken subsequently under the
LAA demonstrate that the State Govt. was ad idem with the
municipal corporation on the need to procure Appellants’
land;
iii) Section 91 of the MMC has been complied with. The fact
that   the   Office   of   the   Chief   Engineer   forwarded   the
application   to   the   State   Govt.   is   inconsequential   as   the
action is a formality. The Commissioner was part of the
Ministerial   Committee   where   the   decision   regarding
Appellants’ land was taken and the application was only
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made   after   accruing   the   approval   of   the   committee,
including the Commissioner; 
iv) The MMC Act and MRTP Act operate in completely different
fields and co­exist simultaneously. If the State legislature
intended to erode the powers under the MMC Act, it would
have included provisions to that effect. 
v) Resort to Sections 91, 291(a) and 296 of the MMC Act as the
mode of acquisition was ideal for Appellants as they would
receive compensation via the statutory mechanism under
the LAA. Moreover, the plan for the road, as proposed by
Respondent   No.   2,   does   not   impact   the   buildings
constructed on the land. Hence, no substantial prejudice is
caused to Appellants;
vi) The   directive   dated   07.06.1993   cannot   be   classified   as
coming under Section 37 of the MRTP Act. The State Govt.
merely   suggested   that   Respondent   No.   2   reconsider   the
technical and legal aspects of the proposed link road after
which no further steps were taken. There was no express
modification directed to be made, and this was merely part
of the process of revisions and consideration of the DP.
vii) Appellants’ conduct and the manner in which they had the
buildings   on   the   land   constructed   in   defiance   of   an
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undertaking   that   was   given   to   the   state   authorities,
disentitles them to any relief on equitable grounds. Further,
their   repeated   representations   directly   to   the   State
authorities   and   attempts   to   manipulate   the   road
construction show mala fide intent;
viii) The link road is in public interest, and such a consideration
must override private interest.
19. Learned   senior   counsel,   Mr.   Divan,   countered   Respondents’
submissions in his rejoinder by raising the following points:
i) The Resolution of 08.12.1998 was under Section 90 of the
MMC Act which is for acquisition by consent. There was
neither consent for acquisition nor any separate resolution
under   Section   91   of   the   MMC   Act   that   was   passed   by
Respondents. Even if the submission by Mr. Godbole that
this was essentially a resolution under Section 91 is to be
accepted,   the   subsequent   Resolution   No.   1167   of
09.03.2001, and letter dated 14.03.2001 by Respondent No.
2, expressly noted there was no need for a road to be built
through   Appellants’   property.   Hence,   this   nullified   any
purported decision that may have been taken under Section
91 in the resolution dated 08.12.1998. 
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ii) The argument regarding disentitlement to relief on equitable
grounds is unfounded, since it is the municipal corporation
that has repeatedly changed its stance on the need for the
link road;
iii) The  affidavit  submitted  by  Vyaravali   Village  Development
Assn. before the High Court in the WP filed by Respondent
Nos. 6­9, shows that there was a clear application of mind to
the issue of constructing the link road. Resolution No. 1167
was the product of these deliberations. Thus, no claim of
manipulation   and   mala   fides   can   be   raised   against
Appellants.
iv) Having devoted our earnest attention to the submissions
advanced by both sides, and after perusing the record, we
now proceed to consider the issues that have been raised. 
C. ANALYSIS
C.1. Interplay between the MRTP Act and the MMC Act
20. The primary issue that emerges from the arguments raised by
the parties is with regard to the interaction between the MRTP Act and
the MMC Act. Specifically, the Appellants posit that the procedure
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under Section 37 of the MRTP Act for amendment of a DP is the sole
method by which construction that is not provided for within the DP
can subsequently be authorized. 
21. Section 37 of the MRTP Act (relevant part) sets out the following
process:
37. Modification of final Development plan
(1) Where a modification of any part of or any proposal
made   in,  a  final  Development  plan    *  *  *,  the  Planning
Authority   may,   or   when   so   directed   by   the   State
Government  [shall,  within  ninety  days  from  the  date  of
such  direction,  publish  a  notice]   in  the  Official  Gazette
[and   in  such  other  manner  as  may  be  determined  by  it]
inviting objections and suggestions from any person with
respect to  the proposed modification not later than one
month from the date of such notice ; and shall also serve
notice   on   all   persons   affected   by   the   proposed
modification   and   after   giving   a   hearing   to   any   such
persons,   submit   the   proposed   modification   (with
amendments,   if   any,)   [to   the   State   Government   for
sanction within one year from the date of publication of
notice   in   the   Official   Gazette.   If   such   modification
proposal   is   not   submitted  within   the   period   stipulated
above,  the  proposal  of  modification   shall  be  deemed   to
have lapsed: 
Provided   that,   such   lapsing   shall  not  bar   the  Planning
Authority from making a fresh proposal.] 
[(1A) If the Planning Authority fails to issue the notice as
directed by the State Government, the State Government
shall   issue   the  notice,  and   thereupon   the  provisions  of
sub­section (1) shall apply as they apply in relation to a
notice to be published by a Planning Authority.] 
[(1AA)(a)   Notwithstanding   anything   contained   in   subsections (1),  (1A) and (2),  where the State Government is
satisfied   that   in   the   public   interest   it   is   necessary   to
carry out urgently a modification of any part of, or any
proposal  made   in,  a   final   Development   plan   of   such  a
nature   that   it   will   not   change   the   character   of   such
Development plan, the State Government may, on its own,
publish a notice in the Official Gazette, and in such other
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manner  as  may  be  determined  by   it,   inviting  objections
and   suggestions   from   any   person   with   respect   to   the
proposed modification not later than one month from the
date   of   such   notice   and   shall   also   serve   notice   on   all
persons  affected   by   the   proposed  modification  and   the
Planning Authority. 
(b) The State Government shall, after the specified period,
forward a copy of all such objections and suggestions to
the   Planning   Authority   for   its   say   to   the   Government
within   a   period   of   one  month   from   the   receipt   of   the
copies   of   such   objections   and   suggestions   from   the
Government. 
(c)   The  State  Government   shall,  after  giving   hearing   to
the   affected   persons   and   the   Planning   Authority   and
after making such inquiry as it may consider necessary
and   consulting   the   Director   of   Town   Planning,   by
notification in the Official Gazette, publish the approved
modifications   with   or   without   changes,   and   subject   to
such conditions as it may deem fit, or may decide not to
carry   out   such  modification.   On   the   publication   of   the
modification   in   the   Official   Gazette,   the   final
Development plan shall be deemed to have been modified
accordingly.]
22. As opposed to this, Respondents have attempted to make a case
that the power vested in the municipal corporation under Sections 91,
291(a), and 296 of the MMC Act, are unaffected by Section 37 of the
MRTP Act. The interpretation of the three provisions comprise the crux
of the present case and they are reproduced below (relevant part):
91.   Procedure   when   immoveable   property   cannot   be
acquired by agreement. 
(1) Whenever the Commissioner is unable to acquire any
immovable property  under  the  last  preceding  section by
agreement   [the   [State]   Government]   may,   in   their
discretion,   upon   the   application   of   the   Commissioner,
made with the approval of [the Improvements Committee]
[and   subject   to   the   other   provisions   of   this   Act]   order
proceedings to be taken for acquiring the same on behalf
of   the   corporation,   as   if   such   property   were   a   land
Page 18 of 61
needed  for  a  public  purpose  within  the  meaning  of   the
Land Acquisition Act, 1870.* 
(2)  The  amount  of  compensation  awarded  and  all  other
charges incurred in the acquisition of any such property
shall,   subject   to   all   other   provisions   of   this   Act,   be
forthwith  paid  by   the  Commissioner  and   thereupon   the
said property shall vest in the corporation.
     x­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­x­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­x
291. Power to make new public streets
The Commissioner, when authorised by the corporation in
this behalf may at any time— 
(a) lay out and make a new public street; 
(b) agree with any person for the making of a street for
public   use   through   the   land   of   such   person,   either
entirely  at  the  expense  of  such  person  or  partly  at  the
expense of such person and partly at the expense of the
corporation,   and   that   such   street   shall   become,   on
completion, a public street; 
[(c)   declare   any   street   made   under   an   improvement
scheme  duly  executed  in  pursuance  of  the  provisions  of
the City of Bombay Improvement Act, 1898, or the City of
Bombay   Improvement  Trust  Transfer  Act,  1925,  to  be  a
public street.]
     x­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­x­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­x
296.   Power   to   acquire   premises   for   improvements   of
public street
(1)   The   Commissioner  may,   subject   to   the   provisions   of
section 90, 91 and 92—
(a) acquire any land required for the purpose of opening,
widening,   extending   or   otherwise   improving  any   public
street   or   of   making   any   new   public   street,   and   the
buildings, if any standing upon such land; 
(b) acquire in addition to the said land and the buildings,
if   any,   standing,   thereupon,   all   such   land   with   the
buildings,   if  any,   standing   thereupon,  as   it   shall   seem
expedient   for   the   corporation   to  acquire   outside  of   the
regular   line,   or   of   the   intended   regular   line,   of   such
street; 
(c) lease, sell or otherwise dispose of any land or building
purchased under clause (b). 
(2) Any conveyance of land or of a building under clause
(c)  may   comprise   such   conditions   as   the   Commissioner
Page 19 of 61
thinks fit, as to the removal of the existing building, the
description   of   new   building   to   be   erected,   the   period
within which such new building shall be completed and
other such matters.
23. Under the MCC Act, the power to make a new public street is
derived from Section 291. For the purpose of making a new street,
Section 296 of the Act empowers the Commissioner to acquire land,
subject to fulfilment of the conditions stipulated in Sections 90­92.
For our purposes, Section 91 is the consequential provision since
Appellants’ land could not, evidently, be acquired by agreement and
had to be procured under the terms of the procedure provided therein.
24. The entire scheme of land acquisition for the purpose of laying a
new road line is provided within the contours of Sections 91, 291(a)
and 296. There is undoubtedly a certain degree of overlap between
these provisions, and Section 37 of the MRTP Act as they deal with
procurement of land. However, the latter is relevant in the context of a
DP whereas the MCC Act regulates the manner in which the Mumbai
Municipal   Corporation   operates.   Moreover,   merely   because   both
statutes  are  concerned  with   land  acquisition,  may  not  necessarily
result in conflict between them. 
25. Learned   Senior   Counsels   for   the   Appellants   urged   that   the
interpretation of the provisions of the MRTP Act and MMC Act must be
such that actions under the latter could only be taken if sanction and
Page 20 of 61
approval for them had been obtained under the MRTP Act. While it is
true that the respective provisions in both Statutes deal with  the
method   for   procuring   land   in   public   interest,   there   is   nothing
contained   within   them   which   explicitly   or   impliedly   makes   them
subject to one another. A bare reading indicates that they operate in
distinctive fields which may not always be co­dependent. Appellants’
interpretation amounts to curtailing the power that Respondent No. 2
would   have   otherwise   been   able   to   exercise   under   the   MMC   Act,
outside the contours of the MRTP Act. 
26. It is well settled that provisions of one statute should not be
construed or interpreted in a manner that they render redundant the
provisions in another statute. The Court’s endeavour shall always be
to   harmoniously   construct   such   provisions   so   that   the   legislative
intent underlying both statutes can be fulfilled. 
27. In The Chief Inspector of Mines & Ors. v. Lala Karam Chand
Thapar  &  Ors.4
the Court had reconciled a seeming contradiction
between the Mines Act, 1923, and the General Clauses Act, through a
harmonious construction of the provisions in the two Acts:
“13. If the words of s. 31(4) are construed to mean that
the regulations became part of the Act to the extent that
when   the   Act   is   repealed,   the   regulations   also   stand
repealed,  a  conflict  at  once  arises  between  s.  31(4)  and
the   provisions   of   s.   24   of   the   General   Clauses   Act.   In
4 (1962) 1 SCR 9.
Page 21 of 61
other words, the Mines Act, 1923, while saying in s. 31(4)
that the repeal of the Act will result in the repeal of the
regulations, will be saying, in the provisions of s. 24 of
the   General   Clauses   Act   as   read   into   it,   that   on   the
repeal   of   the   Act,   when   the   Act   is   repealed   and   reenacted, the regulations will not stand repealed but will
continue   in   force   till   superseded   by   regulations   made
under the re­enacted Act. To solve this conflict the courts
must   apply   the   rule   of   harmonious   construction…   We
have to seek therefore some other means of harmonising
the  two  provisions.  The   reasonable  way  of  harmonising
that   obviously   suggests   itself   is   to   construe   s.  31(4)   to
mean that the regulations on publication shall have for
some purposes, say, for example, the purpose of deciding
the validity of the regulations, the same effect as if they
were part of the Act, but for the purpose of the continuity
of existence, they will not be considered part of the Act,
so that even though the Act is repealed, the regulations
will continue to exist, in accordance with the provisions
of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act. This construction will
give reasonable effect to s. 31(4) of the Mines Act, 1923
and   at   the   same   time   not   frustrate   the   very   salutary
object of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act. One may pause
here to remember that regulations framed under an Act
are of the very greatest importance. Such regulations are
framed  for  the  successful  operation  of  the  Act.  Without
proper   regulations,   a   statute   will   often   be   worse   than
useless.  When  an   Act   is   repealed,   but   re­enacted,   it   is
almost   inevitable   that   there   will   be   some   time   lag
between   the   re­enacted   statute   coming   into   force,   and
regulations   being   framed   under   the   re­enacted   statute.
However efficient the rule making authority may be it is
impossible to avoid some hiatus between the coming into
force   of   the   re­enacted   statute   and   the   simultaneous
repeal   of   the   old   Act   and   the   making   of   regulations.
Often,   the   time   lag   would   be   considerable.   Is   it
conceivable   that   any   legislature,   in   providing   that
regulations made under its statute will have effect as if
enacted in the Act, could have intended by those words to
say that if ever the Act is repealed and re­enacted (as is
more   than   likely   to   happen   sooner   or   later),   the
regulations will have no existence for the purpose of the
re­enacted   statute,  and   thus   the   re­enacted  statute,   for
some   time   at   least,   will   be   in   many   respects,   a   dead
letter. The answer must be in the negative. Whatever the
purpose   be  which   induced   the  draftsmen   to  adopt   this
legislative form as regards the rules and regulations that
Page 22 of 61
they will have effect "as if enacted in the Act", it will be
strange indeed if the result of the language used, be that
by becoming part of the Act, they would stand repealed,
when  the  Act   is  repealed.  One  can  be  certain  that  that
could not have been the intention of the legislature. It is
satisfactory   that   the   words   used   do   not   produce   that
result.   For,   if   we   apply   the   rule   of   harmonious
construction, as has been pointed out above, s. 31(4) does
not   stand   in   the  way   of   the   operation   of   s.  24   of   the
General Clauses Act.”
28. The primacy of taking a harmonious construction was affirmed
in Anwar Hasan Khan v. Mohd. Shafi5
 as well:
“8.   It   is   settled   that   for   interpreting   a   particular
provision of an Act, the import and effect of the meaning
of the words and phrases used in the statute has  to  be
gathered from the text, the nature of the subject matter
and   the   purpose   and   intention   of   the   statute.   It   is
cardinal principle of construction of a statute that effort
should be made in construing its provisions by avoiding
the   conflict   and   adopting   a   harmonious   construction.
The statute or rules made thereunder should be read as a
whole   and   one   provision   should   be   construed   with
reference   to   the   other   provision   to  make   the   provision
consistent with the object sought to be achieved. The well
known principle of harmonious construction is that effect
should be given to all the provisions and a construction
that reduce one of the provisions to a "dead letter" is not
harmonious construction.”
29. When the legislature knowingly allows two statutes to operate in
the same space, it is a reasonable presumption that the legislative
design would have been for both to remain operative without any
overriding effect, save and except when a contrary intent is explicitly
provided. In other words, the Court shall steer two statutes away from
5 (2001) 8 SCC 540.
Page 23 of 61
a direct collision with each other, even if their areas of operation are
broadly similar. 
30. Learned   Senior   Counsel,   Mr.   Shyam   Divan,   has   placed
substantial reliance on decisions of this Court in  Girnar   Traders
2011  and  Manohar  Joshi  to advance the Appellants’ argument. In
Girnar   Traders   2011  the issue under consideration was whether
Section 11A6
 of the LAA could be read into the MRTP Act’s scheme for
acquisition of land. Section 11A of the LAA provided a two­year time
period within which an award under Section 11 had to be made to
individuals claiming compensation under the Act. Failure to do so
would lead to the entire land acquisition process lapsing.
31. It is in this context that the Constitution Bench of this Court
held that the MRTP Act is a self­contained code. It elaborated that
mere reference to certain provisions of the LAA would not result in the
importation of the entire scheme of the said statute unto the MRTP
Act. The Court thus held:
6 11A. Period shall be which an award within made. –
The Collector shall make an award under section 11 within a period of two years
from the date of the publication of the declaration and if no award is made within that
period, the entire proceeding for the acquisition of the land shall lapse: 
Provided that in a case where the said declaration has been published before the
commencement of the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 1984 (68 of 1984), the award
shall be made within a period of two years from such commencement. 
Explanation ­ In computing the period of two years referred to in this section, the
period   during   which   any   action   or   proceeding   to   be   taken   in   pursuance   of   the   said
declaration is stayed by an order of a Court shall be excluded.]
Page 24 of 61
“84. The MRTP Act besides being a code in itself has one
pre­ dominant purpose, i.e., planned development. Other
matters   are   incidental   and,   therefore,   should   be
construed   to  achieve   that  pre­  dominant  object.  All   the
provisions of the Land Acquisition Act cannot be applied
to the MRTP Act. The provisions of the MRTP Act have to
be   implemented   in   their   own   field.   As   far   as   the
provisions   relating   to   preparation,   approval   and
execution of the development plans are concerned, there
is   hardly   any   dependency   of   the State   Act on   the
provisions   of   the Land   Acquisition   Act.   It   may   be
necessary,   sometimes,   to   acquire   land  which   primarily
would   be   for   the   purpose   of   planned   development   as
contemplated under the MRTP Act. Some of the provisions
of the State Act have specifically referred to some of the
provisions of the Land Acquisition Act but for the limited
purpose   of   acquiring   land. Thus,   the   purpose   of   such
reference   is,  obviously,   to   take  aid  of   the  provisions  of
    the     Central Act only for the purpose of acquiring a land
    in accordance with law stated therein rather than letting
any  provision  of  the     Central  Act hamper  or  obstruct  the
    principal   object   of   the State   Act,   i.e.   execution   of   the
planned development.”
(Emphasis Applied)
32. Unmistakably,   the   Constitution   Bench’s   objective   was
safeguarding against the transposition of conditions under the LAA
into the MRTP Act. Allowing this to happen would have made the task
of achieving the object and purpose of the MRTP Act more onerous.
The crucial factor that weighed with the Court in that instance was
that it could not allow the LAA to “hamper or obstruct” the MRTP Act’s
primary goals. 
33. A   similar   concern   was   deliberated   upon   by   this   Court   in
Manohar Joshi (Supra). The Court in that case was inter alia dealing
Page 25 of 61
with a conflict that arose between a DP and an earlier Town Planning
Scheme under Section 597
 of the MRTP Act. The DP reserved the area
in question for the construction of a primary school whereas the town
planning scheme had marked it as a residential zone. 
34. While noting the express provision under Section 398
 that a town
planning scheme would be subordinate to, and be suitably modified to
bring it in congruence with the DP, this Court held:
“84. As noted above, Section 39 specifically directs that
the Planning Authority shall vary the TP Scheme to the
extent   necessary   by   the   proposals   made   in   the   final
development plan, and Section 59(1)(a) gives the purpose
of   the   TP   scheme   viz.   that   it   is   for   implementing   the
proposals contained in the final development plan. Under
Section  31(6)  of  the  Act,  a  development  plan  which  has
came into operation is binding on the Planning Authority.
The   Planning   Authority   cannot   act   contrary   to   the   DP
plan   and   grant   development   permission   to   defeat   the
provision  of   the  DP  plan.  Besides,   it   cannot  be   ignored
that   a   duty   is   cast   on   every   Planning   Authority
specifically under Section 42 of the Act to take steps as
may be necessary to carry out the provisions of the plan
referred   to   in   Chapter   III   of   the   Act,   namely,   the
development plan.”
(Emphasis Applied)
7 59. Making of town planning schemes.
[(1)] Subject to the provisions of this Act or any other law for the time being in force
— 
(a) a Planning Authority may for the purpose of implementing the proposals in the
final Development plan 4[or in respect of any land which is likely to be in the course of
development or which is already built upon], prepare one or more town planning schemes
for the area within its jurisdiction, or any part thereof ;…
8 39. Variation of town planning scheme by Development plan.
Where   a  final   Development  plan   contains  proposals   which  are   in  variation,   or
modification of those made in a town planning scheme which has been sanctioned by the
State Government before the commencement of this Act, the Planning Authority shall vary
such scheme suitably under section 92 to the extent necessary by the proposals made in
the final Development plan.
Page 26 of 61
35. Upon a close examination of these judgments, we fail to see how
they assist the Appellants’ case. In both instances, the concern was
regarding frustration of the DP by either importation of Section 11A of
the LAA into the scheme of the MRTP Act (Girnar Traders 2011), or
due  to  a  conflict  between  the  DP  and  the  town   planning  scheme
(Manohar   Joshi). Neither of these eventualities have arisen in the
present case. 
36. Even   apart   from   that,   the   principle   on   which   this   Court
proceeded   in   the   cases   cited   above   is   that   external   statutes   or
alternate schemes/plans under the MRTP Act or otherwise, should not
be allowed to frustrate the DP or the overall objective of planned
development under the MRTP Act. As the DP is the primary means of
achieving the purpose of the MRTP Act, any violence done to the
former would necessarily affect the latter. Conversely, if the former is
left essentially undisturbed then it cannot be said that the spirit and
scheme of the MRTP Act has not been honoured. 
37. The construction of the link road in the present case does not, in
any way, frustrate the DP or defeat the overall objective of the statute.
The   motivation   for   building   the   connector   is   to   alleviate   traffic
congestion in the area caused due to the need for commuters to take a
protracted detour around the boundaries of Appellants’ property. It is
Page 27 of 61
only in instances where a requirement of the DP is being abrogated
that a conflict arises and the observations in Girnar Traders 2011
(Supra) and Manohar Joshi (Supra) become relevant. 
38. Moreover, the decision in  Manohar   Joshi  (Supra)  contains a
crucial   distinguishing   factor   between   the   town   planning   scheme
sought to be effectuated in that case, and the proposed link road in
the present instance. Under Section 39 of the MRTP Act, the town
planning scheme is expressly made subordinate to the DP. No such
express provision has been placed in either the MRTP Act or the MMC
Act, to curtail the powers of Respondent Nos. 2 & 3 under Sections 91,
291(a), and 296 of the MMC Act. 
39. In   fact,   the   MMC   Act   under   Section   61(m)9
  mandates   that
Respondent No. 2 take any lawful measures possible to provide for the
construction,   maintenance,   alteration,   and   improvement   of   public
streets. The wording of this provision is mandatory, in contrast to
Section 6310 of the MMC Act which grants discretion to the Municipal
9 61. Matters to be provided for by the corporation.
It shall be incumbent on the corporation to make adequate provision, by any means
or measures which it is lawfully competent to them to use or to take, for each of the
following matters, namely :—
(m) the construction, maintenance, alteration and improvement of public streets,
bridges, culverts, causeways and the like 1[and also other measures for ensuing the safe
and orderly passage of vehicular and pedestrian traffic on streets];…
10 63. Matters which may be provided for by the corporation at their discretion.
The corporation may, in their discretion, provide from time to time, either wholly or
partly, for all or any of the following matters, namely :—
Page 28 of 61
Corporation to make arrangements for the subjects listed thereunder,
if it so chooses. 
40. This Court should not, therefore, unduly erode the powers vested
in Respondent No. 2 to carry out its statutory duties under Section 61.
This is especially true in a case where the object and purpose of the
MRTP Act is left unaffected by the actions taken by the Municipal
Corporation. 
41. In this background, we find significant merit in learned Counsel,
Mr. Godbole’s argument, that the MRTP Act and the MMC Act exist in
separate spheres without any preconceived hierarchy. There may be
instances where there is overlap, such as when a DP is formulated for
a   municipal   area   where   the   municipal   corporation   also   exercises
jurisdiction. However, even in such a scenario the two statutes would
exist side­by­side and supplement each other. 
42. The exception to this, to borrow from Manohar Joshi (Supra),
would be where the actions taken by the municipal corporation or any
other external authority “defeat the provision of the DP plan”. In such
an eventuality the appropriate course of action would be to seek a
modification of the DP under the MRTP Act.
43. For these reasons, we reject the contention of the Appellants that
the only means by which the link road through their property could
Page 29 of 61
have been constructed was through an amendment to the DP under
Section 37 of the MRTP Act. Respondent No. 2 had the option to either
follow the procedure under the MRTP Act, or to invoke the parallel
process provided under Sections 91, 291(a) and 296 of the MMC Act.
Respondent No. 2’s recourse to the latter cannot be said to defeat any
provision of the DP or be contrary to the scheme of the MRTP Act. 
44. Having held as such, we also do not find merit in the argument
that   Respondent   No.   2’s   resort   to   the   MMC   Act   constitutes   a
colourable exercise of power. This Court in Sonapur Tea Co. Ltd. v.
Must.  Mazirunnessa11  had characterized the colourable exercise of
powers as:
“9…The doctrine of colorable legislation really postulates
that legislation attempts to do indirectly what it cannot
do directly. In other words, though the letter of the law is
within   the   limits   of   the   powers   of   the   Legislature,   in
substance the law has transgressed those powers and by
doing   so   it   has   taken   the   precaution   of   concealing   its
real   purpose   under   the   cover   of   apparently   legitimate
and reasonable provisions…”
45. Once we have ascertained that the two legislations in question,
the MRTP Act and the MMC Act, exist in separate spheres with only
incidental overlap, the possibility of a colourable exercise of power by
Respondent No. 2 falls away. As elaborated above, there is no direct or
indirect bar on the exercise of powers under Sections 91, 291(a), and
296 of the MMC Act which are all in furtherance of Respondent No. 2’s
11 (1962) 1 SCR 724.
Page 30 of 61
responsibilities under Section 61. The only exception to this would be
in those cases where a provision of the DP itself is being abrogated. 
46. Mr. Divan, learned Senior Counsel for the Appellants, had also
raised an issue regarding the lack of appropriate safeguards under the
MMC Act as compared to the MRTP Act. He urged that the existence of
the right to object by interested parties to amendments in a DP under
Section 37 of the MRTP Act was further backing for his contention
that the MRTP Act was a complete code and is meant to control the
entire field in regard to planned development. This, he argued, was in
contrast to Section 91 of the MMC Act which contains no such right of
objection prior to the municipal corporation passing a resolution. 
47. In our considered opinion, this does not advance Appellants’
case either. Merely because a right to object to a modification of a DP
exists under Section 37 of the MRTP Act does not automatically give it
an ascendant position in the hierarchy that Appellants seek to create
between the MRTP Act and the MMC Act. It is up to the legislature to
determine the amount of discretion that is accorded to the relevant
authorities under each statute. 
48. While   it   is   true   that   this   Court   has   previously   read   the
requirement of giving affected persons an opportunity to be heard into
statutes and provisions which did not provide for it, such a right was
Page 31 of 61
held even in those cases to not be absolute.12 However, we need not
even go so far. A closer reading of the MMC Act and the LAA shows
that there are adequate safeguards available and, in the facts of the
case,   Appellants   were   given   ample   opportunity   to   object   to   the
proposed expropriation of their land. 
49. When an application is made under Section 91 of the MMC Act,
it is not the case that a notice for acquisition is issued immediately.
The State Govt. must first satisfy itself that the land sought to be
acquired is indeed required for a public purpose. Respondent No. 1
must scrutinize the application submitted before it and come to the
conclusion that the property in question necessitates reservation in
public   interest   before   initiating   the   process   under   the   LAA   via
notification under Section 4. 
50. Thereafter,   a   mechanism   for   hearing   objections   is   provided
under the LAA. Section 5A of the LAA, as it was at the relevant time, is
reproduced below:
5A. Hearing of objections. – 
(1)   Any   person   interested   in   any   land   which   has   been
notified under section 4, subsection (1), as being needed
or   likely   to   be   needed   for   a   public   purpose   or   for   a
Company  may,  [within  thirty  days  from  the  date  of  the
publication of the notification], object to the acquisition
of the land or of any land in the locality, as the case may
be. 
12 Olga Tellis & Ors. v. Bombay Municipal Corporation & Ors. (1985) 3 SCC 545; C.B.
Gautam v. Union of India & Ors. (1993) 1 SCC 78.
Page 32 of 61
(2) Every objection under sub­section (1) shall be made to
the Collector in writing, and the Collector shall give the
objector  an  opportunity  of  being  heard  [in  person  or  by
any   person   authorized   by   him   in   this   behalf]   or   by
pleader and shall, after hearing all such objections and
after  making  such  further  inquiry,  if  any,  as  he  thinks
necessary,  [either  make  a   report   in   respect  of   the   land
which has been notified under section 4, sub­section (1),
or make different reports in respect of different parcels
of such land, to the appropriate Government, containing
his recommendations on the objections, together with the
record of the proceedings held by him, for the decision of
that   Government].   The   decision   of   the   [appropriate
Government] on the objections shall be final. 
(3)   For   the   purpose   of   this   section,   a   person   shall   be
deemed to be interested in land who would be entitled to
claim   an   interest   in   compensation   if   the   land   were
acquired under this Act.]
51. In light of this, the claim that adequate safeguards were not
available under the route provided in Section 91 of the MMC Act
cannot be countenanced. Not only does the State Govt. first evaluate
the application under Section 91, but Section 5A of the LAA also
permits the landowners themselves to air their grievances. 
52. Notice under Section 4(1)13 of the LAA was issued to Appellants
on   24.03.2005   by   the   Special   Land   Acquisition   Officer   (“SLAO”)
regarding the proposed acquisition of land for constructing the link
road   and   setting   a   deadline   of   15.04.2005   for   filing   objections.
13 4. Publication of preliminary notification and power of officers thereupon. – 
(1) Whenever it appears to the [appropriate Government] the land in any locality [is
needed or] is likely to be needed for any public purpose [or for a company], a notification to
that   effect   shall   be   published   in   the   Official   Gazette   [and   in   two   daily   newspapers
circulating in that locality of which at least one shall be in the regional language], and the
Collector shall cause public notice of the substance of such notification to be given at
convenient places in the said locality [(the last of the dates of such publication and the
giving of such public notice , being hereinafter referred to as the date of the publication of
the notification)].
Page 33 of 61
Appellants responded on 11.04.2005, opposing the acquisition  inter
alia  on the grounds that the matter was sub­judice before the High
Court in WP No. 3060 of 2002, and that the order dated 18.10.2002
passed in WP No. 1072 of 2001 had directed that actions would not be
taken pursuant to any subsequent resolution by Respondent No. 2
without leave being granted by the High Court. Their objections stated
that:
10. Our clients submit that for the reasons mentioned in
Writ   Petition   No.3060   of   2002   filed   by   our   clients,   the
proposed acquisition of land out of our clients' property
bearing CTS Nos.23, 24 and 26 of Mulgaon is not for any
public purpose and the same is not in accordance with
law.   No   portion   of   our   clients'   properties   bearing   CTS
Nos.23, 24 and 26 of Mulgaon is or is likely to be needed
for construction of any public road. Proposed acquisition is
at the instance of and for serving the private purpose of
Developers   of   properties   lying   to   East   of   our   clients'
properties and is malafide and in colourable exercise of
powers under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and Mumbai
Municipal Corporation Act, 1888. Construction of a private
road   through   the   property   of   our   clients   is   bound   to
destroy   our   clients'   property   and   cause   irreparable
damage to our clients' property, without serving any public
purpose.
     x­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­x­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­x
12. In the circumstances, our clients object to the proposed
acquisition   on   the   ground   that   the   same   is   in   willful
disobedience   and  breach  of   Order   dated   18th   October,
2002 passed by the Bombay High court in Writ Petition No.
l072   of   2001   and   amounts   to   interference   with   the
proceedings in Writ Petition No.3060 of 2002 filed by our
clients and pending before the Bombay High Court and
contempt of the Bombay High Court as also on the ground
that   the   same   is   not   under   authority   of   Appropriate
Government and the ground that the same is malafide and
in colourable exercise of powers and not in public interest,
but merely to favour and confer largesse on Developers of
Page 34 of 61
property lying to the East of the property of our clients, by
seeking to destroy the property of our clients and other
grounds.
53. It appears from the record that Appellants sent several letters to
this effect over the following months demanding that the acquisition
process cease on the aforementioned grounds stated in their letter of
11.04.2005.   Appellants   had   eventually   filed   a   contempt   petition
against Respondent Nos. 2, 3 and 10, alleging violation of the order of
18.10.2002. This contempt petition was dismissed by the High Court
on 18.08.2006. 
54. Indeed, the award of compensation under Section 11 of the LAA14
passed   on   26.11.2007   recorded   at   several   instances   that   multiple
hearings   were   fixed   and   sufficient   opportunity   had   been   given   to
14 11. Enquiry and award by Collector. –
[(1)] On the day so fixed, or on any other day to which the enquiry has been
adjourned, the Collector shall proceed to enquire into the objection (if any) which any
person   interested   has   stated   pursuant   to   a   notice   given   under   section   9   to   the
measurements made under section 8, and into the value of the land [at the date of the
publication of the notification under section 4, sub­section (1)], and into the respective
interests of the persons claiming the compensation and shall make an award under his
hand of­ 
(i) the true area of the land; 
(ii) the compensation which in his opinion should be allowed for the land; and 
(iii) the apportionment of the said compensation among all the persons known or
believed to be interested in the land, or whom, or of whose claims, he has information,
whether or not they have respectively appeared before him : 
[Provided that no award shall be made by the Collector under this sub­section
without the previous approval of the appropriate Government or of such officer as the
appropriate Government may authorize in this behalf: 
Provided further that it shall be competent for the appropriate Government to direct
that the Collector may make such award without such approval in such class of cases as
the appropriate Government may specify in this behalf.
Page 35 of 61
interested parties to be heard. In terms of the inquiry under Section 5
of the LAA, the award noted:
After going through the objection raised by M/S Soloman
& Co. Adv. Mentioned above and legal advice dt. 10/5/05
revived from M.C.G.M.: the S.L.A.O. came to the conclusion
that he need not to wait till the decision of the Hon. High
Court, Mumbai in writ. Petition No.3060/02 filed by the
interested parties as asked for in the objection mentioned
above and S.L.A.O. decided to [proceed] with proceedings
under sec. 6 of L.A. Act. The detailed report in form 'D' as
required under sec. 5A of L.A. Act and draft notification
under sec. 6 of L.A. Act have been submitted to the Addl.
Commissioner Konkan Division through the Addl. Collector
M.S.D. on 16/6/05 for the approval and publication of
notification under sec. 6 in Govt Gazette and newspaper
etc.
55. The award then goes on to note that no documentation had been
submitted by any of the interested parties showing title/rights over the
land and no claims for compensation had been filed under the LAA
either:
E.  EVIDENCE   IN   SUPPORT  OF  CLAIM  BY   THE  LAND
OWNERS
Nobody from owners or interested persons has filled their
claims   of   compensation   nor   they   have   produced   any
documentary   evidence   of   ownership   of   land   under
acquisition.   Sufficient   times   were   given   them   by   fixing
hearing from time to time and heard them. Finally letters
dt. 12/5/06, 13/7/06 and 20/3/07 were issued to them
asking to file their claims of compensation and documents
of ownership. However, nobody came forward to file their
claims of compensation or claims of ownership.
Only one Shri Abraham Pattani through his advocate, filed
every time his objection for acquisition of said lands and
tried to stay acquisition proceedings.
Page 36 of 61
56. What emerges from this sequence of events is that Appellants
appear to have been given sufficient opportunity to be heard and for
their objections to be considered. However, the Appellants remained
preoccupied with attempting to halt the acquisition proceedings on the
ground that the matter was sub­judice before the High Court and,
thus,   no   further   steps   under   the   LAA   could   be   taken.   After
scrutinizing the legal situation, the SLAO dismissed their objections
and continued to perform the various steps under the LAA. There was
no stay granted during this time, and Appellants’ contempt petition
had been dismissed, as mentioned above. 
57. The Appellants seemingly did not submit any documentation in
support of their claim of title and neither did they seek quantification
of compensation they may have been entitled to under the LAA. As a
result, they cannot now claim that there was no opportunity given to
them to voice their concerns with regard to the acquisition process.
The decision by the Appellants to stick to their position in terms of the
notification and award being non­est due to the pendency of their WP
at the High Court cannot entitle them to now argue that they were
treated unfairly in the proceedings under the LAA. 
58. This   also   fortifies   our   earlier   observation   regarding   the   coexistence of the MMC Act alongside the MRTP Act. The contentions
Page 37 of 61
raised by the Appellants have failed to persuade us and we see no
reason to enact a hierarchy between the two Statutes. We affirm, once
again, the position articulated by Respondents that it was open to
Respondent No. 2 to act under the MMC Act to acquire Appellants’
land for the public purpose of building the link road.
C.2. Compliance with the procedure under the MMC Act
59. Having held that Respondent No. 2 was entitled to exercise its
powers under the MMC Act, it is now incumbent on us to examine
whether the procedure under the Statute was properly followed. We
refer to our earlier observations on the scheme of procurement under
the MMC Act from a combined reading of Sections 91, 291(a), and 296
contained therein. 
60. To begin with, it is necessary to recap the sequence of events
that led to the land acquisition proceedings. Learned Counsel for the
Municipal Corporation and the Municipal Commissioner, Mr. Godbole,
has highlighted the initial trio of resolutions, Nos. 651, 39 & 536, by
Respondent No. 2 that set the ball rolling in terms of land acquisition.
Resolution No. 536 was a composite resolution under Section 126 of
the MRTP Act and Section 90 of the MMC Act. According to him, this
was in effect a resolution under Section 91 as the reference to Section
90 was merely a typographical error due to Section 9015, acquisition
15 90. Acquisition of immovable property by agreement.
Page 38 of 61
via consent, being the first option under the MMC Act. When that
failed, the natural next step would be the second option under Section
91 of the MMC Act. 
61. Subsequently  the   Office   of   the   Chief   Engineer  had   made   an
application   to   Respondent   No.   1   on   05.02.1999   for  procuring   the
Appellants’   land.   The   link   road   proposal   was   then   shelved   via
Resolution No. 1167, before being revived once again by Resolution
No. 1117 dated 28.10.2002. 
62. Following   the   renewal   of   the   link   road   proposal,   the   land
acquisition proceedings were recommenced under Section 91 and the
necessary steps under the LAA were taken on the basis of the same
application of 05.02.1999 that had been submitted by the Office of the
Chief Engineer. This finally culminated in the passing of the award of
compensation under Section 11 of the LAA on 26.11.2007.
63. In this backdrop, learned Senior Counsels for the Appellants
have   argued   that   there   has   been   non­compliance   with   two
requirements under Section 91 of the MCC Act: a) The application for
acquisition of land was forwarded from the Office of the Chief Engineer
(Development   Plan)   and   not   the   Commissioner;   b)   There   was   no
(1) Wherever it is provided by this Act that the Commissioner may acquire or
whenever it is necessary or expedient for any purpose of this Act that the Commissioner
shall   acquire,   any   immovable   property,   such   property   may   be   acquired   by   the
Commissioner on behalf of the corporation by agreement 6[subject to the provisions of subsection (3)].
Page 39 of 61
authorization granted or order passed by Respondent No. 1 to proceed
with such an acquisition.
64. Adverting   to   the   first   submission,   we   acknowledge   the
unambiguous   language   of   Section   91   which   contemplates   an
application being submitted by the Commissioner, Respondent No. 3.
However, when dealing with such matters of procedure the old adage
of procedural laws being the handmaid of justice must be kept in
mind. As has been exhaustively and extensively reiterated by this
Court in the past, procedural rules must not be allowed to defeat the
basic purpose of a statute or hamper the pursuit of justice unless
violation of the procedure would itself amount to grave injustice. 
65. In Sangram Singh v. Election Tribunal, Kotah & Anr.16 this
Court in the context of procedural rules held:
“16…It   is   procedure,   something   designed   to   facilitate
justice  and  further   its  ends:  not  a  penal  enactment  for
punishment  and  penalties;  not  a  thing  designed  to  trip
people up. Too technical a construction of sections that
leaves no room for reasonable elasticity of interpretation
should   therefore   be   guarded   against   (provided   always
that   justice   is  done   to   both   sides)   lest   the   very  means
designed   for   the   furtherance   of   justice   be   used   to
frustrate it.”
(Emphasis Applied)
16 (1955) 2 SCR 1.
Page 40 of 61
66. Similarly,   in  Ghanshyam   Dass   v.   Dominion   of   India17 the
ethos behind “adjective law” was elaborated upon while dealing with
issuance of notice under Section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code:
“12. In the ultimate analysis, the question as to whether
a notice under Section 80 of the Code is valid or not is a
question  of  judicial  construction.  The Privy  Council  and
this  Court have applied the rule of strict  compliance in
dealing  with the question of  identity  of the person who
issues   the   notice  with   the   person  who   brings   the   suit.
This  Court  has  however adopted the rule  of  substantial
compliance   in  dealing  with   the   requirement   that   there
must   be   identity   between   the   cause   of   action   and   the
reliefs claimed in the notice as well as in the plaint. As
already stated, the Court has held that notice under this
section should be held to be sufficient if it substantially
fulfils its object of informing the parties concerned of the
nature  of   the   suit   to  be   filed.  On   this  principle,   it  has
been held that though the terms of the section have to be
strictly   complied   with,   that   does   not   mean   that   the
notice   should   be   scrutinized   in   a   pedantic   manner
divorced from common sense. The point to be considered
is  whether  the  notice  gives  sufficient   information  as  to
the  nature  of  the  claim  such  as  would  the   recipient  to
avert the litigation.”
(Emphasis Applied)
67. In the same vein,  Sugandhi   v.   P.   Rajkumar18 promoted an
approach that sought to achieve substantial justice when confronted
with breaches of procedural law, especially when the other party did
not suffer any significant prejudice. This Court opined:
“9. It   is   often   said   that  procedure   is   the   handmaid   of
justice.   Procedural   and   technical   hurdles   shall   not   be
allowed   to   come   in   the   way   of   the   court   while   doing
substantial   justice.   If  the  procedural   violation  does  not
seriously cause prejudice to the adversary party,  courts
17 (1984) 3 SCC 46.
18 (2020) 10 SCC 706.
Page 41 of 61
must lean towards doing substantial justice rather than
relying   upon   procedural   and   technical   violation. We
should not forget the fact that litigation is nothing but a
journey towards truth which is the foundation of justice
and   the   court   is   required   to   take  appropriate   steps   to
thrash out the underlying truth in every dispute.”
 (Emphasis Applied)
68. A Constitution Bench of this Court in State of U.P. & Ors. v.
Babu Ram Upadhya19, while laying down the test for determining if
the legislature intended for a provision to be directory or mandatory in
nature, held as follows:
“29…For   ascertaining   the   real   intention   of   the
Legislature,   the   Court   may   consider,   inter   alia,   the
nature   and   the   design   of   the   statute,   and   the
consequences which would follow from construing it the
one   way   or   the   other,   the   impact   of   other   provisions
whereby the necessity of complying with the provisions in
question   is  avoided,  the  circumstance, namely,  that  the
statute provides for a contingency of the non­compliance
with   the   provisions,   the   fact   that   the   non­compliance
with the provisions is or is not visited by some penalty,
the  serious  or  trivial  consequences  that  flow  therefrom,
and, above all, whether the object of the legislation will
be defeated or furthered.”
(Emphasis Applied)
69. It is with these time tested principles in mind that we must now
analyse Appellants’ contentions and consider whether the requirement
of   the   Commissioner   making   the   application   under   Section   91   is
directory or mandatory in nature. While doing so, we avert to learned
Counsel  Mr.  Godbole’s  argument that the  Commissioner is,  at all
19 (1961) 2 SCR 679.
Page 42 of 61
times, involved in the decision making process and is an integral
member of the Ministerial Committee that signs off on initiating a land
acquisition process under the MMC Act. 
70. Thus, a common sense approach would lead to the conclusion
that rigid adherence to the notion that the Commissioner can be the
only official to actually send an application under Section 91 may not
be warranted in all scenarios. The construction of the provision that
has   been   suggested   by   the   Appellants   would   prevent   the   kind   of
“reasonable elasticity of interpretation” that was noted in  Sangram
Singh (Supra) to be vital when construing a statute. 
71. Further, we are unable to ascertain what prejudice has been
caused to the Appellants merely because it was the Office of the Chief
Engineer which officially forwarded the application to the prescribed
authority   under   Section   91.   The   consequence   in   both   scenarios,
whether   the   Commissioner   or   some   other   official   acts   under   the
provision, would be that land acquisition proceedings are commenced
under the LAA. None of the Appellants’ rights are abrogated by the
Chief   Engineer   making   the   application   under   Section   91.   This   is
further accentuated by the fact that, in any case, Respondent No. 3
was part of the decision­making process. 
Page 43 of 61
72. Appellants   have   placed   reliance   on  Girnar   Traders   2007
(Supra)  to contend that the requirement of Respondent No. 3 being
the specific official to make the application cannot be deviated from.
The Court in that instance was dealing with lapsing of a reservation of
land under the MRTP Act in terms of Section 127.20  The area in
question had been marked as part of a DP but no steps had been
taken to acquire it for a full decade thereafter. The Commissioner was
the   designated   authority   authorized   to   act   under   Section   126   to
initiate the steps for land acquisition. While analysing Sections 126 &
127 of the MRTP Act21, the majority opined:
20 127. Lapsing of reservations.
[(1) If any land reserved, allotted or designated for any purpose specified in any plan
under this Act is not acquired by agreement within ten years from the date on which a final
Regional Plan, or final Development Plan comes into force 2[or if a declaration under subsection (2) or (4) of section 126 is not published in the Official Gazette within such period,
the owner or any person interested in the land may serve notice, alongwith the documents
showing his title or interest in the said land, on the Planning Authority, the Development
Authority or, as the case may be, the Appropriate Authority to that effect; and if within
twelve months] from the date of the service of such notice, the land is not acquired or no
steps   as   aforesaid   are   commenced   for   its   acquisition,   the   reservation,   allotment   or
designation shall be deemed to have lapsed, and thereupon, the land shall be deemed to be
released from such reservation, allotment or designation and shall become available to the
owner for the purpose of development as otherwise, permissible in the case of adjacent land
under the relevant plan.
21 126. Acquisition of land required for public purposes specified in plans.
(1) Where after the publication of a draft Regional plan, a Development or any other
plan or town planning scheme, any land is required or reserved for any of the public
purposes   specified   in   any   plan   or   scheme   under   this   Act   at   any   time,   the   Planning
Authority, Development Authority, or as the case may be, 1[any Appropriate Authority may,
except as otherwise provided in section 113A] 2[acquire the land,— 
(a) by agreement by paying an amount agreed to, or 
(b) in lieu of any such amount, by granting the land­owner or the lessee, subject,
however,   to   the   lessee   paying   the   lessor   or   depositing   with   the   Planning   Authority,
Development Authority or Appropriate Authority, as the case may be, for payment to the
lessor, an amount equivalent to the value of the lessor’s interest to be determined by any of
the  said  Authorities  concerned  on  the  basis  of  the  principles  laid  down  in  the  Land
Acquisition Act, 1894, Floor Space Index (FSI) or Transferable Development Rights (TDR)
against the area of land surrendered free of cost and free from all encumbrances, and also
further   additional   Floor   Space   Index   or   Transferable   Development   Rights   against   the
Page 44 of 61
“54.  When  we  conjointly   read  Sections  126  and  127  of
the MRTP Act, it is apparent that the legislative intent is
to   expeditiously   acquire   the   land   reserved   under   the
Town   Planning   Scheme   and,   therefore,   various   periods
have   been   prescribed   for   acquisition   of   the   owner's
property.   The   intent   and   purpose   of   the   provisions   of
Sections   126   and   127   has   been   well   explained   in
Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay Case (supra). If
the acquisition is left for a time immemorial in the hands
of   the   concerned   authority   by   simply   making   an
application  to  the  State  Government  for  acquiring  such
land   under   the   LA   Act,   1894,   then   the   authority   will
simply   move   such   an   application   and   if   no   such
notification   is   issued   by   the   State   Government   for   one
year of the publication of the draft regional plan under
Section 126(2) read with Section 6 of the LA Act, wait for
the notification to be issued by the State Government by
exercising   suo   motu   power   under   Sub­section   (4)   of
Section 126; and till then no declaration could be made
under Section 127 as regards lapsing of reservation and
contemplated   declaration   of   land   being   released   and
available   for   the   land   owner   for   his   utilization   as
permitted   under   Section   127.   Section   127   permitted
inaction on the part of the acquisition authorities for a
period of 10 years for de­reservation of the land. Not only
that, it gives a further time for either to acquire the land
or   to   take   steps   for   acquisition   of   the   land   within   a
period of six months from the date of service of notice by
the   land   owner   for   de­reservation. The   steps   towards
commencement   of   the   acquisition   in   such   a   situation
would necessarily be the steps for acquisition and not a
step which may not result into acquisition and merely for
the purpose of seeking time so that Section 127 does not
come into operation. 
55. Providing the period of six months after the service of
notice clearly indicates the intention of the legislature of
an urgency where nothing has been done in regard to the
land reserved under the plan for a period of 10 years and
the owner is deprived of the utilization of his land as per
the  user  permissible  under   the  plan.  When  mandate   is
given   in   a   Section   requiring   compliance   within   a
particular   period,   the   strict   compliance   is   required
development or construction of the amenity on the surrendered land at his cost, as the
Final Development Control Regulations prepared in this behalf provide, or 
(c) by making an application to the State Government for acquiring such land under
the Land Acquisition Act, 1894,
Page 45 of 61
thereof as introduction of this Section is with legislative
intent   to   balance   the   power   of   the   State   of   'eminent
domain'…”
(Emphasis Applied)
73. It was in this context that the majority noted that the Executive
Engineer, who was not authorized to act as the appropriate authority
under Section 126, could not have taken on the mantle of making an
application for initiating proceedings under the LAA. What weighed
with the court was the legislative intent of Sections 126 and 127
which was to “balance the power of the State of ‘eminent domain’”. The
consequence of not acting in an expeditious manner under Sections
126 & 127 was the automatic de­reservation of land that was meant to
be part of the DP.
74. Thus, there are two important distinguishing factors between
Girnar   Traders   2007   (Supra)  and  our scenario.  The  first  is  the
mandate and purpose of Sections 126 & 127 which are meant to
ensure the DP is acted upon swiftly and efficiently. The prejudice
caused to a private citizen if his land is reserved for a public purpose
under the MRTP Act but then not acquired for years afterwards was
eloquently elaborated upon by the majority. The individual would be
deprived of the usage of his land due to the reservation, while not
receiving  compensation   for  it   under  the   LAA.   It  was   to   safeguard
against such an eventuality that strict adherence to Sections 126 &
Page 46 of 61
127   of   the   MRTP   Act   was   necessary.   This   rationale   cannot   be
transplanted to Section 91 of the MMC Act.
75. The second is the lack of any penal provision or consequence
attached to a failure to follow the exact procedure mentioned under
Section 91. As observed in Babu Ram Upadhya (Supra) the existence
of a penal mechanism attached to non­compliance is one of the means
by which the nature of a provision can be ascertained. Under the
MRTP Act the consequence of non­compliance with the designated
procedure under Section 126 is the eventual de­reservation of the land
in question under Section 127.
76. In this context, the Doctrine of Purposive Interpretation is also of
assistance. This Court in Reserve Bank of India v. Peerless General
Finance and Investment Co. Ltd. & Anr.22 referred to the need for
interpretation of a statute to be based on the context and purpose
behind it, in the following terms:
“33.   Interpretation   must   depend   on   the   text   and   the
context.  They  are   the  bases  of   interpretation.  One  may
well say if the text is the texture, context is what gives
the  colour.  Neither  can  be   ignored.  Both  are   important.
That   interpretation   is   best   which   makes   the   textual
interpretation   match   the   contextual.   A   statute   is   best
interpreted when we know why it was enacted. With this
knowledge, the statute must be read, first as a whole and
then   Section   by   section,   Clause   by   clause,   phrase   by
phrase and word by word. If a statute is looked at, in the
context of its enactment, with the glasses of the statute22 (1987) 1 SCC 424.
Page 47 of 61
maker,   provided   by   such   context,   its   scheme,   the
sections,   clauses,   phrases   and   words  may   take   colour
and appear different than when the statute is looked at
without the glasses  provided by the context. With these
glasses we must look at the Act as a whole and discover
what   each   section,   each   clause,   each  phrase  and   each
word   is  meant   and   designed   to   say   as   to   fit   into   the
scheme   of   the   entire   Act.   No   part   of  a   statute  and  no
word of a statute can be construed in isolation. Statutes
have to be construed so that every word has a place and
everything is in its place.”
77. Along   similar   lines,  S.   Gopal   Reddy   v.   State   of   A.P.23
expounded on the approach to be taken while interpreting statutes
and held:
“12. It is a well­known Rule of interpretation of statutes
that  the  text  and  the  context  of  the  entire  Act  must  be
looked   into   while   interpreting   any   of   the   expressions
used   in   a   statute.   The   courts  must   look   to   the   object
which the statute seeks to achieve while interpreting any
of   the   provisions   of   the   Act.   A   purposive  approach   for
interpreting   the   Act   is   necessary.   We   are   unable   to
persuade ourselves to agree with Mr. Rao that it is only
the   property   or   valuable   security   given   at   the   time   of
marriage   which   would   bring   the   same   within   the
definition of 'dowry' punishable under the Act, as such an
interpretation   would   be   defeating   the   very   object   for
which the Act was enacted. Keeping in view the object of
the   Act,   "demand   of   dowry"   as   a   consideration   for   a
proposed marriage would also come within the meaning
of the expression dowry under the Act.”
78. It   appears   to   us   that   Section   91   imposes   a   statutory
responsibility on Respondent No. 3, the Commissioner, to initiate the
land acquisition process. The object behind the expression “…upon
the application of the Commissioner, made with the approval of
23 (1996) 4 SCC 596.
Page 48 of 61
the…”   unequivocally   suggests   that   the   Commissioner   must   apply
his/her   mind   and   take   a   conscious   decision   in   favour   of   the
acquisition   proceedings   being   initiated   under   the   LAA.   Once   the
Commissioner   is   party   to   the   Ministerial   Committee   and   a
determination is made by the Committee that a new public street
must   be   laid   and   land   must   be   acquired   for   this   purpose   under
Section   91   of   the   MCC   Act   read   with   the   LAA,   it   is   no   longer
consequential which authority conveys this decision. The conclusion
that the land is required for the construction of the road cannot be
invalidated on this ground. 
79. To the extent that Respondent No. 3 is required to forward the
application under Section 91, we see no reason to consider this a
mandatory condition. Nevertheless, even for such directory provisions
substantial compliance is necessary. In Sharif­ud­din v. Abdul Gani
Lone24 the level of compliance with directory rules, as well as the
distinction between mandatory and directory requirements under a
statute, was detailed and laid down in the following terms:
“9. The   difference   between   a   mandatory   rule   and   a
directory   rule   is  that  while  the  former  must  be  strictly
observed,   in   the   case   of   the   latter,   substantial
compliance   may   be   sufficient   to   achieve   the   object
regarding   which   the   rule   is   enacted. Certain   broad
propositions which can be deduced from several decisions
of courts regarding the rules of construction that should
be followed in determining whether a provision of law is
24 (1980) 1 SCC 403.
Page 49 of 61
directory   or  mandatory  may   be   summarized   thus:   The
fact   that   the  statute  uses  the  word   'shall'  while   laying
down a duty is not conclusive on the question whether it
is a mandatory or directory provision. In order to find out
the   true   character   of   the   legislation,   the   Court   has   to
ascertain   the   object   which   the   provision   of   law   in
question is to sub­serve and its design and the context in
which it is enacted. If the object of a law is to be defeated
by   non­compliance   with   it,   it   has   to   be   regarded   as
mandatory.”
(Emphasis Applied)
80. We   are   inclined   to   hold   and   affirm   that   there   has   been
substantial compliance with Section 91 to the extent that it achieves
the objective behind the provision. Learned Counsel, Mr. Godbole, has
already pointed out the practicalities of the decision making process in
Respondent No. 2. Undoubtedly, Respondent No. 3 would have been a
participant in the deliberations on whether to initiate the process
under Section 91 for procurement of land. The final application was
made   only   after   gaining   approval   from   him   and   the   rest   of   the
Committee. 
81. Appellants have urged that the need for Respondent No. 3 to
personally take the first step under Section 91 is part of the minimal
safeguards that exist under the MMC Act and must be adhered to. We
feel   that   the   purpose   behind   the   provision   of   ensuring   that   the
highest­ranking   officer   in   the   municipal   corporation   is   privy   and
amenable   to   the   acquisition   proceedings   is   achieved   by   his
Page 50 of 61
participation  and sign off on the action, regardless of whether he
personally sends the application. 
82. In this respect, the holding of a Division Bench of the Bombay
High   Court   in  Harakchand   Misirimal   Solanki   &   Ors.   v.   The
Collector  &   Ors.25 becomes relevant. The High Court was dealing
with the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act, 1949, and
efforts made by the Pune Municipal Corporation to set up a “Forest
Garden”. One of the several alleged defects in the process which arose
for consideration before the High Court pertained to the fact that the
Assistant Commissioner, instead of the Commissioner, had made the
application for commencing proceedings under the LAA. It was urged
that the Commissioner was the designated authority under Section 78
of the Act.26 Rejecting this argument, the Division Bench observed:
“24.  We  do  not  find  any  substance   in  the  contention  of
the   petitioner   that   it   is   not   the   Assistant   Municipal
Commissioner but the Commissioner himself who should
have applied for initiation of proceedings under the said
Act…Therefore,   even   if   contention   of   the   petitioner   is
accepted that the actual application sent to the Collector
seeking   to   initiate   proceedings   under   the   said   Act   for
compulsory acquisition of the lands in issue was signed
25 2008 SCC OnLine Bom 1067.
26 78. Procedure when immovable property cannot be acquired by agreement
(1) Whenever the Commissioner is unable under section 77 to acquire by agreement
any immovable property or any easement affecting any immovable property vested in the
Corporation or whenever any immovable property or any easement affecting any immovable
property vested in the Corporation is required for the purposes of this Act, the1 [State]
Government may in its discretion, upon the application of the Commissioner, made with the
approval of the Standing Committee and subject to the other provisions of this Act, order
proceedings to be taken for acquiring the same on behalf of the Corporation, as if such
property or easement were land needed for a public purpose within the meaning of the Land
Acquisition Act, 1894[I of 1804].
Page 51 of 61
and   sent  by   the  Assistant  Municipal  Commissioner  and
not by the Commissioner of the said Corporation himself,
we do not find that this will constitute a gross illegality
in the initiation of the acquisition proceeding in issue. In
our   view,   once   the   proposal   is   shown   to   have   been
accepted   by   the   Commissioner,   processed   by   the
Commissioner  and  sent  to  the  Collector   in  terms  of  the
directions   of   the   Commissioner,   only   because   the   same
was formally signed not by the Commissioner himself but
by the Assistant Municipal Commissioner, in law, would
not   be   so   vital   to   warrant   vitiating   of   the   entire
acquisition proceeding. In our view, if it is demonstrated
that   substantial   compliance   is  done  with   the   statutory
requirement of Section 78 of the said Act, no fault can be
found with these acquisition proceedings, on this ground
as claimed by the petitioners.”
(Emphasis Applied)
83. The High Court, thus, rebutted this particular contention raised
by   the   Petitioners.   However,   the   Petitioners’   Writ   Petitions   were
allowed overall due to certain other discrepancies that were discovered
in   the   setting   up   of   the   Forest   Garden.   The   Pune   Municipal
Corporation filed an SLP against this judgment assailing the High
Court’s final conclusion which is unrelated to the specific issue we are
concerned with in the present case. Notwithstanding the fact that the
matter remains sub­judice on other facets of the case, we find some
prima facie merit in the reasoning by the Bombay High Court for
repelling the argument that only the Commissioner may submit the
application for reservation and acquisition of land under the LAA. 
84. As submitted by learned Counsel, Mr. Godbole, Respondent No.
3’s seal of approval was granted for the actions taken under Section
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91 of the MMC Act. We, therefore, hold that once the proposal has
been approved by the Commissioner, the lack of a formal signature
from him on the eventual  application is not a serious defect and
cannot annul the entire process that followed. 
85. Based on the discussion above, we are satisfied that Section 91
of the MMC Act has been substantially complied with in this case. We
now turn our attention to the second contention by the Appellants on
the issue of compliance with procedural requirements, which is the
purported absence of an order by the State Govt. for initiating land
acquisition proceedings under the LAA. 
86. To ascertain the veracity of the Appellants’ claim we may refer
once again to the final award of compensation passed on 26.11.2007.
Under   the   sub­heading   “Introduction”   under   the   main   heading
“Reasons   for   the   Award”,   it   is   noted   that   the   Office   of   the   Chief
Engineer   sent   the   application   to   the   Collector   05.02.1999   for
procuring   the   land   in   question.   Following   the   application,   it   was
recorded that:
“The  Addl.   collector   M.S.D.   along   with   his   letter   dt.
21/7/99 sent the said proposal to this office directing this
office to process acquisition proceeding.”
87. We are, therefore, unable to spot the infirmity in the actions of
Respondent authorities. The Additional Collector, acting on behalf of
Page 53 of 61
Respondent No. 1, forwarded the proposal from Respondent No. 2 to
the SLAO for further processing and commencement of the procedure
under the LAA. There is no indication in Section 91 of the MMC Act
that the order of the State Govt. to carry out the land acquisition is
supposed to be in a specific form. Keeping this in mind, we have no
hesitation   in   taking   a   pragmatic   and   practical   approach   to   this
requirement. It is enough that the relevant office in Respondent No. 1
accepted the application from Respondent No. 2 and conveyed it to the
authorities empowered to act under the LAA. The direction from the
Additional   Collector   for   the   SLAO   to   process   the   request   from
Respondent No. 2 would be sufficient compliance with Section 91 of
the MMC Act. 
88. In any case, Respondent Nos. 10 & 11, in performing the steps
under   the   LAA   to   procure   the   land,   acted   for   and   on   behalf   of
Respondent No. 1. Thus, it is incontrovertible that Respondent No. 1
was fully on board with the initiative to acquire Appellants’ land for
constructing the link road. The fact that all the steps under the LAA
were carried out is sufficient evidence that there has been adherence
to the spirit and scheme of Section 91 regarding Respondent No. 1
being involved and sanctioning the actions of Respondent Nos. 10 &
11. 
Page 54 of 61
89. In summation, we conclude that the objections by the Appellants
on the grounds of non­adherence to procedural requirements under
Section   91   of   the   MMC   Act   are   without   merit.   There   has   been
substantial compliance with the provision and the objective underlying
it has been honoured. 
C.3. Public Interest v. Private Interest
90. It is important for us to take stock of the nature of the present
dispute. The Appellants are private citizens who have valid title and
ownership over the land in question. Without doubt, their personal
and private rights are of great importance. In a democratic society
governed by the rule of law, the rights of an individual carry immense
importance and are the foundational blocks on which our legal, social,
and political milieu thrives. Under no circumstances should the rights
of individual citizens be trodden upon arbitrarily and any curtailment
of them must be scrutinized with utmost care.
91. At the same time, we must not lose sight of the fact that in
several situations, the needs of the many must outweigh that of the
few. We say so not with any fervour nor as a mantra, but as a solemn
acknowledgment of the realities of modern life. The question of what
constitutes  “public  interest”   has  been   contemplated  upon  multiple
times and the history of this Court is full of musings by different
Page 55 of 61
benches on the exact contours of this phrase in the context of various
situations and statutes. 
92. In Manimegalai v. Special Tehsildar,
27 it was surmised that:
“14.  Similarly,  public  purpose   is  not  capable  of  precise
definition. Each case has to be considered in the light of
the purpose for which acquisition is sought  for. It is to
serve the general interest of the community as opposed to
the  particular interest  of  the  individual.  Public  purpose
broadly speaking would include the purpose in which the
general   interest   of   the   society   as   opposed   to   the
particular   interest   of   the   individual   is   directly   and
vitally  concerned.  Generally,  the  executive would  be  the
best   judge   to   determine   whether   or   not   the   impugned
purpose   is   a   public   purpose.   Yet   it   is   not   beyond   the
purview of judicial scrutiny. The interest of a Section of
the society may be public purpose when it is benefitted by
the acquisition. The acquisition in question must indicate
that it was towards the welfare of the people and not to
benefit a private individual or group of individuals joined
collectively. Therefore, acquisition for anything which is
not for a public purpose cannot be done compulsorily.”
93. In  B.P.   Sharma   v.   Union   of   India   &   Ors.28 the   nebulous
nature of phrases such as “public interest” or “in the interest of the
general public” was commented upon, with the Court stating:
“15. …The phrase "in the interest of the general public"
has come to be considered in several decisions and it has
been   held   that   it   would   comprise   within   its   ambit
interests   like   public   health   and   morals,   economic
stability,  stability  of  the  country,  equitable  distribution
of  essential  commodities  at  fair  prices  for  maintenance
of  purity  in public  life, prevention of  fraud and  similar
considerations…”
27 (2018) 13 SCC 491.
28 (2003) 7 SCC 309.
Page 56 of 61
94. This   point   was   emphasized   in  Bihar   Public   Service
Commission   v.   Saiyed   Hussain   Abbas   Rizwi   &   Anr.29 as   well,
which held that no strict definition for “public interest” existed:
“22. The expression "public interest" has to be understood
in its true connotation so as to give complete meaning to
the relevant provisions of the Act. The expression "public
interest"  must  be   viewed   in   its   strict   sense  with  all   its
exceptions   so   as   to   justify   denial   of   a   statutory
exemption  in  terms  of  the  Act.   In   its  common  parlance,
the expression "public interest", like "public purpose", is
not capable of any precise definition. It does not have a
rigid  meaning,   is   elastic  and   takes   its   colour   from  the
statute in which it occurs, the concept varying with time
and   state   of   society   and   its   needs.   It   also  means   the
general  welfare  of  the  public  that  warrants   recognition
and protection; something in which the public as a whole
has a stake.”
95. It is unnecessary to belabour the point. The proposition is simply
that   the   notion   of   public   interest   will   necessarily   reflect   the
specificities of the situation at hand. In the present case, the public
interest   which   has   been   emphasized   upon   by  Respondents   is   the
urgent   need   for   the   creation   of   a   connecting   road   through   the
Appellants’   property.   The   need   stems   from   the   traffic   congestion
caused on the route from the Mahakali Caves to the Central MIDC.
The   lack   of   a   direct   linkage   requires   detours   to   be   taken   that
significantly increase commuting time and cause inconvenience to the
general public.
29 (2012) 13 SCC 61.
Page 57 of 61
96. When   the   public   interest   is   so   clearly   articulated   and   is   an
urgent and pressing exigency, private interests must give way to the
extent required. This Court has acknowledged this before, such as in
Ramilila  Maidan  Incident  v. Home  Secretary,  Union of  India &
Ors.
30: 
“119.  The   right   to   freedom   in   a   democracy   has   to   be
exercised   in   terms   of   Article   19(1)(a)   subject   to   public
order. Public order and public tranquillity is a function
of the State which duty is discharged by the State in the
larger public  interest.  The  private right  is  to  be  waived
against public interest.  The action of the State and the
Police was in conformity with law. As a large number of
persons  were   to  assemble   on   the  morning   of  5th  June,
2011 and considering the other attendant circumstances
seen in light of the inputs received from the intelligence
agencies,   the   permission  was   revoked   and   the   persons
attending the camp at Ramlila Maidan were dispersed.”
(Emphasis Applied)
97. In K.T. Plantation Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. v. State of Karnataka,
31
the origins of “Eminent Domain” were traced and the ethos behind
acquisition of land by the government for public good was discussed.
The Court elaborated on this in the following terms:
“134. Hugo Grotius is credited with the invention of the
term "eminent  domain" (jus or dominium eminens) which
implies   that   public   rights   always   overlap   with   private
rights to property, and in the case of public utility, public
rights   take   precedence.   Grotius   sets   two   conditions   on
the   exercise   of   the   power   of   eminent  domain:   the   first
requisite   is   public   advantage   and   then   compensation
from the public funds be made, if possible, to the one who
has   lost   his   right.   Application   of   the   above   principle
30 (2012) 5 SCC 1.
31 (2011) 9 SCC 1.
Page 58 of 61
varies from countries to countries. Germany, America and
Australian   Constitutions   bar   uncompensated   takings.
Canada's   constitution,   however,   does   not   contain   the
equivalent  of  the taking  clause,  and eminent  domain  is
solely a matter of statute law, the same is the situation
in   United   Kingdom   which   does   not   have   a   written
constitution   as   also   now   in   India   after   the   44th
Constitutional Amendment.”
(Emphasis Applied)
98. With these considerations in mind, we deem the present case to
be   an   appropriate   instance   where   public   interest   must   have
paramountcy over private interest. We emphasize once again before
parting that the rights of the individual must only be watered down
when the necessary circumstances demanding such a drastic measure
exist. 
99. Learned Counsel, Mr. Godbole, has candidly explained to us that
the plan for the road through the Appellants’ property is mapped in
such a way that  it  will  not disturb  the  buildings  that have been
constructed   on   it.   Learned   Senior   Counsel,   Mr.   Divan,   has   fairly
admitted that this is indeed the case. Given this, we consider that a
suitable middle ground has been arrived at which is practical and
optimally balances the competing interests between the parties. 
D. CONCLUSION
100. For the reasons detailed above, we find that Respondent No. 2
validly   exercised   its   powers   under   the   MMC   Act   to   direct   the
Page 59 of 61
acquisition of the Appellants’ land. The argument by the Appellants
that the MRTP Act maintains supremacy over the MMC Act is not the
correct position of law, in our opinion, and the two statutes exist sideby­side with some degree of overlap. The powers under the MMC Act
remain intact even in cases where they cover a subject that is also
provided for in the MRTP Act. 
101. The procedure contemplated under Section 91 of the MMC Act to
commence   proceedings   under   the   LAA   for   procuring   land   was
substantially complied with. The part of the provision relied upon by
the   Appellants   is   directory   in   nature   and   requires   substantial
compliance rather than strict compliance. The objections raised by the
Appellants regarding certain aspects of the process are unfounded as
no prejudice was caused to them, and the purported defects are not
nearly grave enough to cause an annulment of the entire process. 
102. In light of these findings, we do not consider it necessary to
comment   upon   the   submissions   by   learned   Senior   Counsel,   Mr.
Naphade,   regarding   the   bona   fides   of   the   Appellants   and   their
entitlement to relief on the grounds of equity. Considering the other
issues which have been answered in favour of the Respondents, this
point becomes moot. 
Page 60 of 61
103. In the final outcome, we dismiss the present appeal as being
devoid of merit. 
104. Pending applications, if any, are also disposed of. 
………….……………..J.
(SURYA KANT)
………….……………..J.
(ABHAY S. OKA)
NEW DELHI:
SEPTEMBER 02, 2022
Page 61 of 61

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